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Wednesday, February 26, 2014
MWC: Samsung Unveils New Products from Its System LSI Business

Besides offering its own smartphones and wearable devices, Samsung addresses the mobile market with new Exynos processors, CMOS image sensors, NFC IC and a Wi-Fi chipset.

The Korean company announced at MWC two 32-bit Exynos application processors, two CMOS image sensors, an NFC IC and a Wi-Fi chipset, for use in advanced smartphones and tablets.

Samsung's new Exynos 5422 is an Exynos 5 Octa product for mobile devices. This processor is equipped with eight cores - four big cores (ARM Cortex- A15 up to 2.1 GHz) for heavy loads and four small cores (ARM Cortex- A7 up to 1.5 GHz) for lighter jobs. Samsung claims the new chip delivers up to 34 percent higher performance than in previous Exynos Octa models.

To support high-resolution displays requiring a higher rate of data calculation and bandwidth, such as WQHD (2560 x 1440) and WQXGA (2560 x 1600), Samsung has adopted new solutions with proprietary mobile image compression (MIC) and adaptive hibernation technology. With MIC, display data is compressed into half to minimize memory bandwidth requirement and uses only four MIPI lanes.

To further reduce power requirements, an adaptive hibernation algorithm detects non-moving parts of dynamic images and freezes the data transfer. Both technologies are implemented in conjunction with Samsung's mobile display driver IC (S6E3HA0 for WQHD and S6E3FA2 for FHD respectively), and save power consumption by up to 10 percent compared with conventional technologies.

Samsung's new Exynos 5422 also supports the advanced Multi Format Codec (MFC) for 4K UHD resolution video.

Exynos 5422 is developed using Samsung's 28 nanometer (nm) fabrication process node and supports HMP feature, saving overall power consumption by up to 10 percent with improved performance compared to mobile application processors fabricated with the 32nm process.

Samsung is offering samples of the processor now and plans to start mass production in the first quarter of 2014.

Another addition to the Exynos portfolio, Exynos 5 Hexa (Exynos 5260), is designed to bring performance and power efficiency for mid- to high-end mobile products. The new Exynos 5 Hexa processor is powered by six CPU cores; two 1.7GHz ARM Cortex-A15 cores and four 1.3GHz ARM Cortex-A7 cores. Along with Exynos 5 Octa products, it adopts big.LITTLE HMP to provide the right mixture of cores for various tasks, resulting in up to 42 percent improved performance when compared with the previous Exynos 5 Dual products.

Equipped with an embedded Display Port (eDP) interface and memory bandwidth supporting up to 12.8GB/s, the Exynos 5260 also supports WQXGA (2560 x 1600) display resolution. It is integrated also with a video codec that enables Full HD (1080p) playback at up to 60 frames-per-second (fps) with encoding and decoding of various standards, such as H.264, MPEG4 and VP8. The Exynos 5260 is currently in mass production.

Max Number of Active Cores
CPU Configuration
2 x Cortex A15 + 4 x Cortex A7
4 x Cortex A15 + 4 x Cortex A7
A15 Max Clock
A7 Max Clock
ARM Mali-T624
ARM Mali-T628 MP6
Memory Interface
2 x 32-bit LPDDR3-1600
2 x 32-bit LPDDR3-1866
28nm HK+MG (?)
28nm HK+MG 

Samsung launched the Galaxy S5 smartphone, which it initially announced with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, though the new Exynos eight-core chip will also be used, according to media reports.

The new Exynos chips are not 64-bit, which keeps the company behind Apple, which caught device makers off guard by putting the first 64-bit A7 chip in the iPhone 5S in September last year. Intel and Qualcomm also launched 64-bit chips at MWC.

Samsung also announced at MWC 2014 its new CMOS image sensor technology, ISOCELL, which increases light sensitivity and controls the collection of electrons, resulting in higher color fidelity even in poor lighting conditions.

CMOS, complementary metal-oxide semiconductor, is a technology used for building integrated circuits, which are a set of electronic circuits that consist of electrical components connected by a wire which provides an electric current.

The image sensor is a device that converts light into an electrical signal.

So the CMOS Image Sensor (CIS) is an image sensor that is produced with the CMOS technology. It's an image sensor designed as an integrated circuit that contains a number of light-sensitive pixels. CMOS Image Sensor is integrated circuit with array of pixel sensors where each pixel contains a photodetector that senses light and an active amplifier that amplifies the signal.

Previous sensor technology developments focused on improving the light absorption of each pixel. This has progressed pixel technology from FSI (Front Side Illumination) to BSI (Back Side Illumination). Image sensors with FSI have a similar logic to the human eye where images we see are received first through lenses then transported through wires, and then processed into the signal thanks to the photodetector. FSI, just like human eyes, has certain limitations in terms of the light, specifically photons, because the light is processed through a wire (nerves) first.

The BSI technology solves this problem by reversing the whole process. Since the photodetectors receive first and can process more light, it improves the light absorption of each pixel, especially in lowlight situations such as night time.

However, as we constantly demand higher resolution for images, the pixel sizes continue to decrease as well, which eventually brings certain limitations to the BSI technology in improving the image quality. For example, since more lights and colors are being absorbed, then being processed, it could result in noise or color mixing between neighboring pixels.

This is when ISOCELL comes. Basically, ISOCELL technology forms a physical barrier between neighboring pixels - isolating the pixel. The result, compared to conventional BSI pixels, is that the ISOCELL pixels decrease the crosstalk by approximately 30 percent. It also increases the full well capacity (FWC) by 30% and 20% wider chief ray angle.

Using the new technology with 1.12µm ISOCELL pixels, Samsung is introducing two new CMOS image sensors - 16 and 13Mpixel.

The 16Mpixel ISOCELL imager is implementing a 16:9 aspect ratio, allowing for full-size, high-resolution images and video to be displayed on screen without field-of-view (FOV) loss. This sensor captures full FOV 16:9 full HD (1080p) video at 60fps, and enables continuous shooting of all 16Mpixels at 30fps. Samples of the 16Mpixel ISOCELL CIS are available now and scheduled for mass production in the first quarter of 2014.

Samsung's new 13Mpixel ISOCELL CIS features Smart Wide Dynamic Range (WDR) technology, which allows users to capture images at 30fps. With a mosaic pattern of multiple exposures, images are then processed with an algorithm for wider dynamic range. This enables users to capture details clearly in both bright and dark areas even in high contrast lighting conditions. This Smart WDR feature is based on Samsung's 65nm stacked process, where the pixel array is attached right on top of the logic circuit. Samsung's 13Mpixel product is sampling now and is scheduled for mass production in the second quarter of 2014.

Samsung also introduced its 3rd generation near field communications (NFC) chip solution. This is the first NFC IC using 45nm embedded flash process, which enables easy firmware updates as well as low power consumption.

This new NFC solution offers handset designers more flexibility by adopting possibly the industry's smallest antenna with enhanced radio frequency performance. This was made possible by Samsung's proprietary Smart Antenna technology, which optimizes impedances of both receiving and emitting parts respectively to improve sensitivity and power efficiency. The NFC chip solution is currently being sampled to samsung's customers and is scheduled for mass production in the second quarter of 2014.

Samsung offers its first wireless connectivity solution, S5N2120, for the Internet of Things (IoT) market. This solution supports IEEE 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi 2.4 GHz, and has an extremely small footprint.

The solution features an integrated micro control unit (MCU) with a power amplifier, power management, audio codec and direct microphone functions. With this MCU, Samsung's OEM customers can reconfigure their existing designs to add Wi-Fi connectivity functions.

The MCU can be used in attery-constrained applications such as Wi-Fi speakers, headsets, remote controls, digital & sports cameras, smart heating/cooling meters, sensors and other types of IoT or M2M applications. Samsung?s new Wi-Fi connectivity solution, S5N2120, is currently sampling and scheduled for mass production in the second quarter of 2014.

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